Tuesday, January 31, 2012

6x6 #25

1. On Patagonia

The farther south they went, the colder it became.
We travel among the same monsters and with the same longings.
Many animals even eat their afterbirth. (Fani Papageorgiou)
I’ve long been a fan (envious, even) of Ugly Duckling Presse’s 6x6, produced out of Brooklyn, New York. A journal with lovely letterpress covers, each issue includes six authors per, usually stand-alone works and/or sections of larger projects. The current issue, #25 (Winter 2011-2012), includes Sherman Alexie’s “Bestiary,” an untitled selection of poems by Noah Eli Gordon, Marina Kaganova’sfrom Sakartvelo,” Karen Lepri’sfrom Fig. I Apparatus for Heat Obscured,” Fani Papageorgiou’s “The Life of Explorers” and an untitled selection of poems by Roger Williams. I know we live in the age of the internet, but why does such a journal not include author biographies?
VII. On the Highway Code

You can sometimes hear traffic before you see it.
It can be dangerous to lose power when driving in traffic. You must
have sufficient fuel before commencing your journey.

Night, the hours of darkness, is defined as the period between half an
hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.
When traveling on ice, tires make virtually no noise.

Islam requires all men to be pilgrims. (Fani Papageorgiou)
What a lovely sequence Fani Papageorgiou’s eleven-part “The Life of Explorers” is. There is something startling about her lines, able to stop the reader every few stanzas, cold. Where has Papageorgiou come from, and is it possible to see more?
My mother sends me a black-and-white
photograph of her and my father, circa
1968, posing with two Indian men.

Who are those Indian guys?” I ask her
on the phone.

I don’t know,” she says.

The next obvious question: “Then why
did you send me this photo?” But I don’t
ask it.

One of those strange Indian men is
pointing up toward the sky.

Above them, a bird shaped like a
question mark. (Sherman Alexie, “Bestiary”)
Sherman Alexie’s “Bestiary” is a six-part narrative sequence that floats through the abstract of a series of concrete questions about a series of events throughout the narrator’s extended history. There’s a quality to Alexie’s writing that is reminiscent of American poet Richard Froude’s first trade collection Fabric (Denver CO: Horse Less Press, 2011) [see my review of such here], in the way that the questions evolve through a sequence of woven narratives collaged into a much larger process of storytelling. What might, in the end, Sherman Alexie be telling us?

I’m intrigued by this selection of prose-poems by Denver, Colorado poet Noah Eli Gordon, six poems each with the same title, “The Problem.” With his most recent trade collection, The Source (New York NY: Futurepoem Books, 2011) [see my review of such here], does that mean a possible future full-length collection with a similar title? I’ve long been an admirer of Gordon’s work, and he works quite well in book-length stretches, composing large concepts out of small, thoughtful and detailed fragments, so a full-length work titled “The Problem” doesn’t seem out of the question. I’m curious to see where more of these poems, accumulatively, might go.
The Problem
This key opens that lock, while that key opens this lock. A camera pans from one to the other. They are not related, and therefore have no visitation rights. The problem is not a literary device. It’s the divisiveness of literature. (Noah Eli Gordon)

Monday, January 30, 2012

new from above/ground press: Armantrout, Blouin/Ranier, McKinnon + mclennan

Four new above/ground press items:

Four new poems by Rae Armantrout

to launch as part of Ottawa’s second annual VERSeFest poetry festival, March 3,

let lie/

an excerpt from a collaborative work
by Michael Blouin and Elizabeth Ranier

to launch as part of The Factory Reading Series, February 17,

Into the Blind World
by Barry McKinnon

to launch as part of Ottawa’s second annual VERSeFest poetry festival, March 4,

Sextet: six poems from Songs for little sleep
by rob mclennan


published in Ottawa by above/ground press
January 2012
a/g subscribers receive complimentary copies

with forthcoming titles by j/j hastain, kemeny babineau, Sarah Mangold, Fenn Stewart, Phil Hall and Andrew Burke, Kathryn MacLeod, Rob Manery + others, as well as a VERSeFest special issue of The Peter F. Yacht Club!

Check here for information on 2012 subscriptions, still available!

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; outside Canada, add $2) to: rob mclennan, 402 McLeod St #3, Ottawa ON K2P 1A6 or paypal button (above);

Sunday, January 29, 2012

12 or 20 (small press) questions: Andrew Steeves on Gaspereau Press

Andrew Steeves was born in Moncton, New Brunswick, and studied criminology and English literature at the University of Ottawa and Acadia University before founding Gaspereau Press with Gary Dunfield in 1997. Since then he has made a modest living reading, writing, editing, designing, printing, binding, promoting and selling books, and thinking about the role they play in our culture. He has won national recognition for his typography and book design, and has three times been named the best literary publisher in Canada by the Canadian Booksellers’ Association, most recently in 2011. He lives near Black River Lake, Nova Scotia, in an off-grid house he built with his family in 2010.

1. When did Gaspereau Press first start? How have your original goals as a publisher shifted since you started, if at all? And what have you learned through the process?
Gary Dunfield and I started Gaspereau Press fifteen years ago, in February 1997, along with a literary journal called Gaspereau Review. I can’t recall what our goals were beyond publishing a few literary books each year, or why we thought the world needed another literary journal. I recall that the magazine had a strong regional bent (subscriptions were listed as being more expensive for Toronto residents), but the content was rather national in scope. We’ve learned plenty since then, having started with no formal knowledge or education related to the publishing or printing trade— but maybe that’s unchanged, and we’ve learned nothing. We’ve never had much interest in the normal or established practices and processes of the publishing trade; in fact, I tend to see trade publishing as largely dysfunctional, and much of what we do is in reaction to the belief. What we have gained in the past fifteen years is a technical understanding of the processes of editing, designing, manufacturing and distributing books—but even that we’ve mostly made up as we’ve gone along.

2. What first brought you to publishing?
Frankly, I needed to find a way to feed my family. I had a background in social work, English literature and journalism and had decided to move to a small town because it seemed more important to find a good life than to find a good job. I was working as an agricultural laborer, produce clerk and freelance writer and ended up creating my own opportunity. There’s a reason that the particular brand of publishing that I practice is sympathetic to my interests and skills: I made it up. This is the only job I have ever held in publishing. I suppose I could have become a poet-farmer like Wendell Berry or a poet-carpenter like John Terpstra. But there was something about editing, designing and printing books that drew me into this work.

3. What do you consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

In a nutshell, literary publishers share the same responsibility as everyone else in society: to pay attention, to engage, and to bother to do things well. Because of the nature of their profession, publishers are well positioned to seek out, foster and circulate the culture’s most elegant and engaging ideas. Those who do so artfully and with tenacity, in the grand tradition of humanist publishing, are more often pre-occupied with nurturing their community then with the mere mercantile affairs of the balance sheet; not that they ignore the balance sheet or dislike profits, only that they consider these things in balance with the greater good of their community and culture. Like farmers, they toil, and the fruits of their labours brought to market might sustain their community.

4. What do you see your press doing that no one else is?
Gaspereau Press is but a star in a great constellation of publishers. Better to ask someone else whether we are unique. All I know is that I work hard to achieve ideals that sometimes seem impossibly idiosyncratic, and sometimes seem commonplace.

5. What do you see as the most effective way to get new chapbooks out into the world?
We only do a few chapbooks each year, and mostly for a lark; most of our focus is on our trade books. But chapbooks are little different than poetry books when it comes to finding an audience. The best way to move them is to put readers in direct contact with the work or with the author, through readings, or through radio, or samplers. Trade publishers have adopted this mistaken notion that there is something to learn about marketing literary books from the world of potato chips and soap flakes—from the marketing of consumable items. Literature is not a consumer good, nor is it strictly speaking entertainment (though the hype around prizes in the fiction scene might suggest otherwise). To talk about literature in terms of consumer goods and entertainment is to talk about rivers and forests in terms of raw materials and natural resources—little good comes from it. Literature and culture are about human relationships, and so it follows that finding ways to foster direct and authentic encounters between a writer and an audience is the best way to promote a book.

6. How involved an editor are you? Do you dig deep into line edits, or do you prefer more of a light touch?
I’m usually in up to the elbows as an editor, though how deep you dig as an editor depends on the characteristics of the manuscript and at what shape it is in when it arrives. But I tend to stay out of the way as an editor if I can. The final decisions on the text are the author’s to make; it’s their vision, not mine, that we’re presenting. My job as an editor is to try and discover that vision and style and hold the author to it.

7. How do your books get distributed? What are your usual print runs?
We distribute our books directly, and always have. When we started out, everyone told us it wouldn’t fly, but we’ve never really had difficulty—or at least we have had no more difficulty than those using big distribution companies, and a great deal more control over costs and terms. Gary is quite technologically able, so he wrote all the software we required to run our system. We were one of the first book distributors in Canada to be compliant when the industry started moving towards Electronic Document Interchange (EDI) for ordering. We have workable relationships with Chapters/Indigo and Amazon, though their business are not really sympathetic to small ‘cottage industry’ suppliers. But we’ve always stood our ground and have managed to navigate their world without sacrificing our own needs and values. Our print runs are characteristically modest—from about 400 or so on a poetry book to 800 or so on a novel—but we feel it is better to reprint than to hold stale stock. I also like the way a reprint gives you the opportunity to tweak things in the text or design.

8 – How many other people are involved with editing or production? Do you work with other editors, and if so, how effective do you find it? What are the benefits, drawbacks?
On the editorial side it’s usually just me and an external proofreader named Christina McRae. Sometimes I’ll outsource the editing of a single book if we are particularly swamped or the work is specialized, but I’d rather do it myself. I’ve had great editorial staff in the past (Christine McNair, Kate Kennedy) but it’s neither economically viable nor particularly gratifying to share the editing work with others, so in 2009 I discontinued that position. I got into this business to do things, not to manage other people doing things, and that is why we’ll always stay small I guess. I’d rather do fewer books and keep all the editing and design in my own lap, making books my own way.

I do find that it’s fruitful to employ someone to coordinate promotional activities and other administrative tasks, which Trina Grant Adam does for me presently. And as well as running the accounting and sales side of things, Gary keeps the machines running and manages two full-time production employees (a pressman and a finisher) and some part-time help. I am involved in production as well, running the letterpress equipment and handprinting most of the book jackets on a Vandercook press. It’s a lot to keep on top of, but gratifying when it works.

9. How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
I was mostly writing and publishing poetry and book reviews before I started the press in my late twenties, and now I am in my forties and writing mostly prose, so it’s hard to compare. It has changed how I read and how I process and compile what I read, that’s for sure. I have two book projects underway at the moment—one about a visit the American ornithologist John James Audubon made to Nova Scotia in 1833 and the other a collection of essays on literary publishing and book design.

10. How do you approach the idea of publishing your own writing? Some, such as Gary Geddes when he still ran Cormorant, refused such, yet various Coach House Press’ editors had titles during their tenures as editors for the press, including Victor Coleman and bpNichol. What do you think of the arguments for or against, or do you see the whole question as irrelevant?
Well, I would and I would not. I’d certainly publish my own projects, no question, but not likely as books on our trade list. As a letterpress printer I’ve got one foot in the ‘private press’ tradition and would tend to publish my own work in small handprinted editions. But for the sake of argument, what of it if I did publish my own works as trade Gaspereau books? To write, design, print and publish my own work allows a sort of harmony of expression. Why would I want to haggle with a trade publisher to follow my own production standards and maintain the quality and integrity of that expression? And what’s the point of asking someone else to do for you what you can better do yourself? Do you really think that there is any de facto objectivity to be established in publishing my writing elsewhere? I don’t. And I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks; I’m not climbing a career ladder as a writer or looking for anyone else’s approval or confirmation. The writing can speak for itself; if it is good work, no one can say it is any less good on account of my printing it on my own dime and with my own hands. I feel the value of doing it myself far outstrips any possible negative implications. However, the reality is that I’m hardly crowding the Gaspereau list with my own puff. The only book of mine Gaspereau had done in fifteen years was an edition of Thoreau’s Walking, which I introduced and annotated, and which was in fact a limited-edition letterpress project, not a trade book. Neither of the two writing projects I mentioned above are likely to be trade books for the simple reason that I would rather print them by hand.

11. How do you see Gaspereau Press evolving?
I think we’re slowly understanding what level of publishing activity and staff is sustainable with the combination of sales revenue and public funding available to us. We were pretty devil-may-care about ‘the industry’ from the beginning, but I think we’re getting more-so as we enter middle age. My feeling is: This is what we do, this is who we are, take it or leave it. I’m not going to get bullied into business practices which are not sustainable or redeeming just because they appear to work for large multinational firms. I’m going to keep working to make good books in a sensible and sustainable way, and looking for readers who believe in the sort of books we publish and the sort of way we publish them. It only takes several hundred such loyal and astute readers to sustain our work, not thousands. Personally, I am trying to find the right balance that allows me more time for practicing and teaching letterpress printing alongside the trade work, and more time to write and think about how the ecology of publishing, typography and book design functions in the larger culture.

12.  What, as a publisher, are you most proud of accomplishing? What do you think people have overlooked about your publications? What is your biggest frustration?
I’m most proud of still being in business. This is a perilous trade, and it’s more perilous still when you try and practice it with care and integrity. I’m not sure how you assess what’s been overlooked; many of our books wait patiently for more readers, of course, but many of them have had great success and seeded cultural change. I’m skeptical about conventional ideas of recognition and success. Books are a sort improvised explosive device, and they will wait quite patiently for their readers. As to what’s frustrating: Our culture’s willingness to trade its birthright for a mess of potage; short-term thinking; lack of vision; lack of community concern; lack of pride in workmanship.

13. Who were your early publishing models when starting out?
Well, in Canada, certainly Coach House and Porcupine’s Quill were obvious influences, and Stan Bevington and Tim Inkster are close friends. In the deeper past, Christopher Plantin in Antwerp was perhaps the greatest publisher, ever. More contemporary models were Francis Meynell’s Nonesuch Press and Leonard and Virgina Woolf’s Hograth Press. But in truth, we started out without influences and rather buttressed ourselves with these models after the fact to support and explain what we had already started to do in isolation and obscurity. As we discovered these publishers, they gave us context and community.

14. How does Gaspereau Press work to engage with your immediate literary community, and community at large? What journals or presses do you see Gaspereau Press in dialogue with? How important do you see those dialogues, those conversations?
That sort of dialogue’s not really been a part of our dynamic; as I said, we’ve worked by and large in isolation. We publish a broad range of styles and authors from across Canada, but there is no special manifesto beyond doing good work and seeking out writers who are doing likewise. We are not in relationships with any journals or communities in particular. We are not associated with any movement or faction in Canadian literature, although we are not particularly avant guard or urban in our tastes in the same way that, say, Coach House is. We are just a good little publishing house publishing a range of good books.

15. Do you hold regular or occasional readings or launches? How important do you see public readings and other events?
I think readings and events are critical for fostering a literary community and a readership for the authors that we publish. We do not host a regular reading series, other than the annual readings that we host as a part of our Wayzgoose and open house at the press each fall. We have also been doing a poetry month event in Toronto or Montreal each April, our Spring Poetry Tra-La, which we usually do in conjunction with Coach House Books and Signal Editions. Besides that, we tailor the readings and events book-by-book, working with established festivals and reading series when possible.

16. How do you utilize the internet, if at all, to further your goals?

Mostly as a passive communication tool. We move a lot of files around by email and FTP, and use it to communicate with authors, event organizers and booksellers. We do some online sales, but this is an area for growth. We use a website and a blog (though the blog is mostly taken up with type history and book design). We had a brief fling with social networking, but didn’t find it was a productive tool. So, in short, we are still experimenting with the internet as a tool. Given the fact that I still hand-write 90 percent of my correspondence and spend a portion of every week printing on a handpress, the internet is just another tool in our pretty well-stocked toolbox.

17. Do you take submissions? If so, what aren’t you looking for?
Yes, of course. We publish poetry, fiction and literary non-fiction. All I can say is that we pick about eight good books a year from several hundred submissions. Your odds of being one of these books go up dramatically if you send us a manuscript to consider (paper submissions only), but beyond that it’s hard to explain what we’re looking for.

18. Tell me about three of your most recent titles, and why they’re special.
I was pretty excited about the way John Leroux’s Glorious Light: The Stained Glass of Fredericton worked out. It’s uncharacteristic for a Gaspereau book because it is full of colour reproductions. I was intent on keeping the thing from devolving into a coffee-table book, though, and designed it in an octavo format and kept equal emphasis on the strength of the text (which is set in Adobe Jenson). John looks at the way in which the multi-faceted ideological and spiritual character of that city is portrayed through the illuminated richness of its stained glass. John thinks it’s the only book ever to offer a comprehensive examination of a Canadian city’s stained-glass heritage.

In the fall we also released another installment in what is evolving into quite a body of literary essays by Don McKay, this one called The Shell of the Tortoise. Don is interested in the relationship between poetry and wilderness, particularly  into the characteristics of metaphor as a tool. I did a lot of work on tuning up the type for the book, which was F.W. Goudy’s Deepdene. Many digital types based on historical metal types require tweaking if they are going to stand up to the modern printing environment without looking ill-kerned and pale.

The third book I’d mention from fall is a novel: Heather Jessup’s The Lightning Field which explores the life of a cold-war era family whose father is an engineer on the Avro Arrow and whose mother is struck by lightning. It’s Heather’s debut work, and quite well done. I had a lot of fun playing with draftsmen’s drawings of the Avro on the title page sequence. I set the novel in a trial version of a new type by Rod McDonald called Goluska, a type he designed in memory of our mutual friend, the Montreal typographer Glenn Goluska, who died of cancer last summer.

12 or 20 (small press) questions;

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst, Apologetic for Joy

My review of Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst's first poetry collection, Apologetic for Joy (Goose Lane Editions, 2011) is now online at Prairie Fire.

Friday, January 27, 2012

ottawater #8 is now on-line! launch tonight,

the eighth issue of the Ottawa pdf poetry annual ottawater, edited by rob mclennan, is now live, featuring new writing by Sylvia Adams, John Barton, Stephanie Bolster, Frances Boyle, Sara Cassidy, Anita Dolman, Richard Froude, Phil Hall, Marilyn Irwin, Alastair Larwill, Anne Le Dressay, Robin K. Macdonald, Rob Manery, Karen Massey, Christine McNair, Justin Million, Cath Morris, Colin Morton, K.I. Press, Bardia Sinaee, jesslyn delia smith, Priscila Uppal and Andy Weaver, as well as interviews with Michael Dennis and Christine McNair.

Come out to the launch (featuring readings by a number of this issue’s contributors) on Friday, January 27, upstairs at The Carleton Tavern, Parkdale at Armstrong; doors 7pm, reading 7:30pm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

12 or 20 questions (second series) with Tim Lilburn

Tim Lilburn has published eight books of poetry. A new collection, Assiniboia, will appear this spring. He teaches at the University of Victoria.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
 That first book, seeing it published, was amazing. Ron Smith at Oolichan had done a great job. I loved everything about it from a design point of view, the cover, the paper. All books since have been special in their own ways; all make me anxious, expectant. Something is closing down, a preoccupation spanning five or more years, an emptiness is following, maybe something new coming in. The look of my new book, Assiniboia, out this spring, I find quite striking, the cover, the arrangement on the inside. Erin Cooper at M&S did the whole design, inside and out – her work amplifies in a powerful way what the text is doing. She saw something in the poems and drew it into visual language.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
As far as I can remember, I started writing quite bad poetry when I was very young, composing it as I walked a paper route. I liked how words could link together musically and carry the punch of emotion. Much, much later, I started writing essays, mostly to get outside of poems to talk in a broader way about what the poems were saying. So now essays and poetry are complimentary texts for me, and both are, in part, vehicles of philosophy, and both are, in part, religious devices or exercises. But this could make things sound a little stiffer, more intentioned, than they really are – I mostly just sniff around.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
 The book I am finishing now was my main focus for five years. It built up slowly, but I knew from the outset that I wanted it to be a long performable, choreographable (a word?) poem for many voices, some of which would belong to Sara Riel, Louis Riel and various landforms that have the power of speech. I’ve been working with Robin Poitras at New Dance Horizons in Regina on a performance of a part of the central long poem, and I see this as a necessary extension of the book. We plan to stage a version shortly after Assiniboia is released, a sort of danced opera of chant. I love collaboration with artists in other mediums, and Robin is a truly brilliant creator.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
 It may sound, from the previous response, that I imagine myself working on a book from the outset, but really I write from single lines, or phrases or just nouns, or simply a particular rhythm that has gotten into my head. The whole shape of the thing becomes clear as I move along. But with Assiniboia I had these hunches from the beginning. I wanted to imagine an alternate western Canada, not resource exploiting, not homogeneous, not petro-state-ish. I just didn’t know how to get there. But I recognized, as anyone would, that if you are serious about pursuing such a vision, you simply must go through the political imagination of Riel and his two Provisional Governments.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? I do rather like them. I like how a poem or stretch of poems can show what they are doing as you perform them. Reading is a way of hearing the music of the work more acutely.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are? 
For many years, a central concern in all my work has centered on autochthonicity, that is, how is it possible for descendants of settlers, for denizens of the ethos of uprooting, anarchic capitalism to be at home where they are? This isn’t a theoretical problem for me, but a personal one – how to form a vivifying link with the land where one is? It’s an affective problem, an erotic question. It is also a question that touches on identity and one’s sense of meaning. Without this link, all sorts of loneliness and violence is possible. This isn’t or shouldn’t be news to anyone.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I’m going to skip this one. The response just above gets roughly at it.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
 Both, I’d say. It’s great to be heard deeply. My editor with the new book was Ken Babstock, an exquisite, sharp reader.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
 Can’t think of the best. Just watching some people work from a distance or close up has been an education and an inspiration. Tomaz Salamun, Jan Zwicky, Don Domanski, book after book, these long forays into whatever draws them.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal? 
I’m usually relieved as I move from one sort of project, an essay, a review, back to poetry or vice versa. The shifting brings lightness in. I’m working with different sets of muscles.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I like to get up quite early and get to the shed where I work in the back of the property as soon as possible. By mid to late morning a certain beachhead has (or not) been achieved. Then walking, reading, talking if I can find someone to share a beer or coffee with.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? 
Lately I’ve turned to Gershon Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism when I find myself in a state like this (I go to this book for many other reasons besides). I’ve been thinking recently of returning to Ray Monk’s extraordinary biography of Wittgenstein and moving through that again. For poetry, Lowell, Geoffrey Hill, Brenda Hillman, Xi Chuan and a few others.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home? 
I have had two homes for several years, Saskatchewan and Vancouver Island. For the Island, the smell of a winter forest – snowberries, douglas fir. Saskatchewan: dry native grass. Dirt.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art? 
I read randomly in science (archeology, neurology, cosmology; a friend who’s a microbiologist has set me on to various things), but I know in fact next to nothing in any of these areas. Mystical theology, neo-platonism – an important book for me over the last few years has been Henry Corbin’s Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi. My partner is a curator, and I go to many art openings. I have found, from a compositional point of view, I have learned more from visual artists – Janet Werner, Rebecca Belmore, Rick Raxlen, Grant McConnell, Jan Wyers – than I have from poets. If they can make this elision on canvas or in the performance space, why can’t I do something comparable on the page?

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work? 
I guess I’ve taken a stab at this question above. The work of Jan Zwicky remains important to me. Osip Mandelstam. Andrew Sukanski, as you know, has been saying things to me for over thirty years. Many, many others.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done? 
Can’t say. Things just turn up. I wouldn’t mind writing an opera, I guess, or at least a more conventional one than the masque/opera for chant in Assiniboia. I am attracted to spectacle. Orghast, R. Murray Schafer. But, no, no particular ambition. Just whatever presents itself. This is part of the thrill, not knowing.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
 I used to work as a farm labourer, and I kind of miss that. There were parts of religious life I liked. But teaching and writing, walking, looking, waiting, conversation when I can scare it up seem to be the best for me.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
 Hard to say, really. It wasn’t a choice. It was just something urging, insistent inside.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Atanarjuat and The Journals of Knut Rasmussen. I just finished Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, and I loved that world.

20 - What are you currently working on?
Now that Assiniboia is finished as far as I am concerned, I’m turning my full attention to two projects, an essay collection that I’d like to call The Larger Conversation, politics, contemplation and so forth, that would go with Going Home and Living in the World As If It Were Home. I’m also deeply engaged with some new poems, more autobiographical, shorter, exploring parts of my past I’ve put off thinking a great deal about. And also I’m quite intrigued by the phenomenon of the mythopoeic war.

Tim Lilburn reads next in Ottawa on Saturday, March 3, 2012 as part of Ottawa's second annual VERSeFest poetry festival.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Milan Kundera, Encounter: essays

The second half of the past century has made everyone extremely sensitive to the fate of people forced out of their homelands. This compassionate sensitivity has befogged the problem of exile with a tear-stained moralism, and obscured the actual nature of life for the exile, who according to Linhartova has often managed to transform his banishment into a liberating launch “toward another place, an elsewhere, by definition unknown and open to all sorts of possibilities.” Of course she is right a thousand times over! Otherwise how are we to understand the fact that after the end of Communism, almost none of the great émigré artists hurried back to their home countries? Why was that? Did the end of Communism not spur them to celebrate the “Great Return” in their native lands? And even if, despite the disappointment of their audience, that return was not what they wanted, wasn’t it their moral obligation? Said Linhartova: “The writer is above all a free person, and the obligation to preserve his independence against all constraints comes before any other consideration. And I mean not only the insane constraints imposed by an abusive political power, but the restrictions—all the harder to evade because they are well-intentioned—that cite a sense of duty to one’s country.” In fact, people chew over clichés about human rights, and at the same time persist in considering the individual to be the property of his nation. (“Exile as Liberation According to Vera Linhartova”)
When I was twenty-four years old, Franco-Czech novelist and critic Milan Kundera’s novel Immortality (1990) changed my life. I’m not even sure if I could articulate how, despite having read it a couple of times since. Sure, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) was an impressive book, an impressive movie, and I’ve gone on to read just about everything he’s written, but somehow, everything Kundera achieved in previous works was tenfold in Immortality. Might we have another novel soon?

Thanks to a gift card over Christmas, I was able to pick up a paperback of Encounter: essays (HarperCollins, 2010), his fourth non-fiction title after The Art of the Novel (1986), Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts (HarperCollins, 1995) and The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts (HarperCollins, 2007). I’ve long been fascinated by his perspective, having spent the past few decades in France, since an exile from his homeland that began in 1975, caused in large part to the “Prague Spring,” to the point that he has moved from composing in Czech to the language of his adopted homeland, French. How does the shift in language alter a shift in writing, or consciousness itself? Still, what I have long admired about his fiction I admire in his essays, a perspective that considers politic and sexuality with equal weight and attention, and his sheer clarity of language. Encounter: essays includes pieces on visual art, writing and politics, from Francis Bacon, Philip Roth’s The Professor of Desire, Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, Beethoven, Carlos Fuentes, Anatole France, Oscar Milosz and a number of others, including the above excerpt from a piece on Vera Linhartova. One could argue that much of Kundera’s writing is about brutality, truth and beauty, whether the collision of the three, or simply the exploration of how the three can’t help but meet, and Encounter: essays moves through much the same sorts of explorations, through the work of others. The piece on Linhartova is a prime example, given Kundera’s knowledge of and interest in the idea of exile, one that comes up repeatedly throughout this work.
I could put it differently: Bacon’s portraits are an interrogation on the limits of the self. Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved person still remain a beloved person? For how long does a cherished face growing remote through illness, through madness, through hatred, through death still remain recognizable? Where is the border beyond which a self ceases to be a self? (“The Painter’s Brutal Gesture: On Francis Bacon”)
His work, one could argue, is an argument for and defense of the worthiness and essential qualities of life and art both, while also exploring the worst aspects of both. The novel is obviously Kundera’s best thinking form, and his essays exist as extensions of his main body of work, allowing light into some of the corners of his writing. Who else would write an essay on One Hundred Years of Solitude titled “The Novel and Procreation”? It begins:
I was rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude when a strange idea occurred to me: most protagonists of great novels do not have children. Scarcely 1 percent of the world’s population are childless, but at least 50 percent of the great literary characters exit the book without having reproduced. Neither Pantagruel, nor Panurge, nor Quixote have any progeny. Not Valmont, not the Marquise de Merteuil, nor the virtuous Presidente in Dangerous Liasons. Not Tom Jones, Fielding’s most famous hero. Not Werther. All Stenhal’s protagonists are childless, as are many of Balzac’s; and Dostoyevsky’s; and in the century just past, Marcel, the narrator of In Search of Lost Time, and of course all of Musil’s major characters: Ulrich, his sister Agathe, Walter, his wife, Clarisse, and Diotima; and Schweik; and Kafka’s protagonists, except for the very young Karl Rossmann, who did not impregnate a maidservant, but that is the very reason—to erase the infant from his life—that he flees to America and the novel can be born. This infertility is not due to a conscious purpose of the novelists; it is the spirit of the art of the novel (or its subconscious) that spurns procreation.

Monday, January 23, 2012

12 or 20 questions (second series) with Sommer Browning

Sommer Browning is the author of EitherWay I’m Celebrating (Birds, LLC; 2011), a collection of poetry and comics, and three chapbooks, most recently THE BOWLING (Greying Ghost, 2010) with Brandon Shimoda. Her work will soon appear in EOAGH, The Denver Quarterly, and EVENT. In 2008, she founded the hand-bound chapbook publisher, Flying Guillotine Press, with Tony Mancus. She lives in Denver where she and Julia Cohen curate The BadShadow Affair, a reading series.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

The old three questions in one trick! My first book has afforded me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have been offered otherwise. I was asked to read and be on a panel at the Juniper Festival, I’ve skyped in with classes that are reading my book, I can answer the question, “How did your first book change your life?” without lying. Having a book has made me more confident in my work, but I’ve allowed it to place a different sort of pressure on me. I want the first book to propel me into something new, something better. That’s the pressure. I’ve always wanted the next poem to be better, but now I take that notion into my new work with a seriousness it didn’t have before. There’s something about codifying your work into a book that creates some very physical, real, monumental baseline. Now I have a place and with that a direction from or toward, before I was everywhere. The array versus the trajectory.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I came to poetry somewhere in the middle. Fiction first, plays, then maybe poetry. It was a series of quotidian life changing events. A fellow I admired gave me some Rilke, I took a workshop with Jean Valentine and she told me I should keep writing poems, these little details that I could have easily ignored, shaped me profoundly.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

For the most part first drafts appear looking close to their final shape. I tend to think about projects for some time before embarking on them. Single poems, though, come out of nowhere, and quickly. But my writing schedule is erratic. I work on routine constantly, and am never successful.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I suppose my goal is to have a book, eventually, but in the short term, I just try to write what is on my mind, what is interesting me, without thinking of length or cohesion or presentation. But that’s not true, too. Because sometimes I just sit down and write a book of president jokes.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I get worked up at every public performance I’ve ever given and I will continue to do so. I have a performing phobia. Most of it occurs internally, rapid heartbeat, brain sweats, spontaneous astral projection; many people don’t believe I’m actually in complete agony up there. But somehow I like it. I even write pieces in order to perform them. Humans are weird.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I like this question. I can’t say what the current questions are, I can barely say what mine are. But one of my concerns centers around truthfulness, or maybe earnestness is a better word. I hope my poems align themselves with the way I want to live in the world. I want to maintain an irreverent reverence at all times, whether that is toward love, beauty, sex or Being. For me, this is the most honest way I can live, with an askance look toward everything, but with arms ready to embrace it all; so one of my theoretical concerns about all art is that of authenticity, expressive rather than nominal. I’m borrowing Sartre’s term to talk about a literary genre he didn’t like—irreverent reverence! Now, I’m suddenly thinking of the Church of Jesus Christ without Jesus Christ from Wiseblood. And now I want donuts.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

There are a couple of roles all writers share that are important to me. 1. For me, writers keep the boundaries of possible experience as wide as they can be. I think about empathy a lot, and how if the human race loses it, the loss compounds, becomes an avalanche of loss: friendship succumbs, then love, then beauty. Other than real life experience, I feel that writing is one of the few places in which we can experience empathy. I am talking of writing in the largest sense, from poetry to screenplays to jokes. 2. I think it is important also, to play with, engage, stretch & destroy language. It is an intellectual endeavor that challenges the heart and mind, and so inspires growth and growth inspires creativity and creativity inspires peace.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I worked very closely with the editors at Birds, LLC, but most especially with the poet Chris Tonelli on my first (only!) book. It was essential. It was difficult only until my ego was tamed, which luckily didn’t take too long.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

I hate advice.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to comics)? What do you see as the appeal?

The appeal of moving between genres? I don’t know that I do see an appeal. I just like poems and I like drawing weird things. Each occupies a slightly different portion of my brain. The comics seem more personal in a way; if I had a soul it would be one of my comics, maybe Li’l Dil, the smallest dildo inthe world.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

After wiping the tears from my eyes, I put on a pot of tea, talk myself out of a shower, check my email, Twitter, Facebook, secret email, then Facebook again and rush out of the house late for work. By the time I get home, the tea kettle is burned to a crisp. Somehow there are poems on my computer.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I read. Even reading for ten minutes out of a random book generates ideas and motivation. Ideas are infinite, luckily.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?


14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Honestly, I would say all of those things because my biggest influence is just living. So stand-up comedy, watching a squirrel squirrel around, listening to Fela Kuti, joking with my husband, deciphering my mother’s text messages, flipping through my Caspar David Friedrich book, everything has the potential to influence me, and so also my work. Saying all that, music is crucial to my life/work. And so is film. And so is YouTube.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Again, not sure I can make the distinction between good for me and good for my work. A lot of fiction is important to me. Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner’s short story “Spotted Horses,” Beckett’s novels. Intellectually, countless poems; I feel like a traitor saying that fiction has always been more important to me emotionally.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Go everywhere. Eat brains. Have a baby. Live in a motel. Save someone’s life.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I would love to be a doctor. If I didn’t write poems, I would play more guitar.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I think I would answer this the same way as I did question 2.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I can’t answer that, but over the past year, I really loved Shesshu Foster’s World Ball Notebook, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Patti Smith’s Just Kids & Robert Fernandez’s We Are Pharoah. And films? So many. This year I rewatched Haneke’s The White Ribbon and was again astounded, I saw and loved Refn’s Valhalla Rising, and I attended an evening of Dani Leventhal’s films and they were great great great great great.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m writing a collection of poems about my friendship with my best friend Sam, editing Serena Chopra’s chapbook Penumbra that’s coming out on the press I run with Tony Mancus called Flying Guillotine, and illustrating Noah Eli Gordon’s upcoming book, 62 Problems (or whatever it ends up being called!) And a dozen other things. Thanks for asking!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Only Poetry That Matters: Reading The Kootenay School of Writing, Clint Burnham

So in providing a literary-historical context for the Kootenay School, I have to speak to two audiences at once: first of all, those who are familiar with, and indeed interested in, the tradition of the Anglo-American literary avant garde, a tradition that runs, in the first half of the twentieth century, from Stein and Pound and Zukofsky and Niedecker to the New American poetries of Olson, Creeley, Duncan, and Spicer; this tradition was then contested in a Canadian context by the TISH poets (George Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Fred Wah, Frank Davey) and in the American one by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writers (Charles Bernstein, Bruce Andrews, Susan Howe, Bob Perelman, Barrett Watten); more recently, “post-Language” writers, sometimes denoted as conceptual or Flarf writers, include the Americans Kenneth Goldsmith, Juliana Spahr, Vanessa Place, Mark Nowak, Rob Fitterman, Rod Smith, and the Canadians Rachel Zolf, Sina Queyras, Christian Bök, Kate Eichhorn, and Darren Wershler. This is all just a list of names, a list that is hardly exhaustive or uncontroversial, but which functions as a placeholder. It can stand in contrast to readers who may come to this text from other traditions, whether from more conservative twentieth-century modernism and anti-modernism (which may run from Eliot and Frost to Plath and Lowell and the contemporary “workshop” or New Yorker poem or follow a less hegemonic trajectory) or the various strands and counter-hegemonic traditions of the so-called “identity” poetics, from the Harlem Renaissance of Hughes and Brooks in the 1950s and then the Black Arts Movement and Canadian iterations in George Elliot Clarke or, closer to home, Wayde Compton, and the gendered poetics of Adrienne Rich and Margaret Atwood and Lowther; or the various anti-academic and sometimes populist forms from the New York school (Frank O’Hara but also Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett) and its late-century epigones in spoken word and rap poetics to the Canadian small press and visual poetry movements, including Stuart Ross, jwcurry, Daniel f. Bradley, and other carriers of the Coach House torch.
Vancouver writer and critic Clint Burnham, a small-press enthusiast since his time in Toronto in the 1980s, has provided a context for the Vancouver-based Kootenay School of Writing in his book-length study, The Only Poetry That Matters: Reading the Kootenay School of Writing (Vancouver BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011). Since the 1970s, the Kootenay School of Writing has carved out a unique space in Canadian writing, loosely furthering the original lessons of the 1960s-era TISH into thrilling extremes of language writing, social involvement and community organization, and a list of those who have come through the KSW collective is just as much a list of much of the experimental writing in Canada over the past three decades. For years, KSW has been one of the few bodies in the country willing to engage with the avant-garde in other countries, from New York to Buffalo to San Francisco to Cambridge to London, as well as being unafraid to push the boundaries of what can be considered literary composition. One could argue that a common view held by the wide-ranging styles of KSW writers is that poetry is supposed to be difficult. The standards and influences from which these writers work are simply different, as the quote above illustrates; one needs to engage at a pretty high level.

In many ways, Canada is still a relatively conservative country when it comes to poetry and fiction, and the responses often thrown at more experimental works are usually a binary of outright derision to complete silence. Burnham’s study shows how the Koonenay School of Writing has managed to not only buck the trend, but somehow thrive, despite.

For those unfamiliar with some of the writers who have come through the collective, a relatively randomly-selected list of past and present names would include Lisa Robertson, Colin Smith, Kathryn MacLeod, nikki reimer, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Rob Manery, Deanna Ferguson, Jerry Zaslove, Susan Yarrow/Clark, Lissa Wolsak, donato mancini, Reg Johanson, Michael Turner, Tom Wayman, Aaron Vidaver, Michael Barnholden, Christine Stewart, Catriona Strang, Roger Farr, Dan Farrell, Jeff Derksen, Dennis Denisoff, Peter Culley, Kevin Davies, Edward Byrne, Colin Browne and Stephen Collis. Anyone interested in seeing more examples of some of the writing from the various incarnations of the KSW would be encouraged to seek out the anthology Writing Class: The Kootenay School of Writing Anthology (Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 1999), or the more recent ANTIOPHONES:Essays on Women’s Experimental Poetries in Canada (Toronto ON: The Gig, 2008), which includes work by a number of the writers mentioned above, both volumes I would highly recommend. For the purpose of The Only Poetry That Matters: Reading the Kootenay School of Writing, Burnham focuses on the work of some of the main players of the collective, many of whom first became active throughout the 1980s and into the 90s:
In my readings of work by Colin Smith (the chapter on Social Collage), Kathryn MacLeod (the chapter Empty Speech), and Lisa Robertson (the chapter on Red Tories), gender politics come to the fore. In the Social Collage chapter, the juxtaposition found in these post-lyrics (especially in Dorothy Trujillo Lusk and Deanna Ferguson) is analogous to the collage aesthetic found throughout punk—from Dick Hebdige’s notion of the visual look (leather jackets and safety pins, Jamie Reid’s collaged album cover for the Sex Pistols) to musical juxtapositions (between reggae, heavy metal, rockabilly). Here the materialism of the archival substrate—of the objects to be found in the KSW archive—is also discussed in terms of a political economy. And the Lacanian critique of language—especially as outlined in the Empty Speech chapter, maintains a tension between a political materialism and a materiality of the signifier.
Part of the response to Koonenay School of Writing participants over the years have been quite baffling, in part due to the fact that much of their work has been stylistically and conceptually as far away from the perceived orthodoxy of mainstream central-Canadian lyric as could even be imagined, while still regarded as poetry. This lack of outside comprehension hasn’t been helped by some of the members over the years circling their wagons, and one of the complaints that keeps coming up about KSW is how their activities exist on an island, where few outsiders are welcome. Still, if you are interested in great writing, great poetry or simply a broader spectrum of what some call “Canadian writing,” this book is essential reading. Burnham isn’t far off when he calls it “the only poetry that matters.” Perhaps not as close as some of the collective might have hoped.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ottawa's VERSeFest poetry festival: upcoming festival information, + a fundraiser on Saturday,

Ottawa's annual VERSeFest poetry festival now has an updated website, with information on our second annual festival, February 28 - March 4, 2012 

with performances by Rae Armantrout, Phil Hall, Suzanne Buffam, Fred Wah, Afua Cooper, Pearl Pirie, Shane Rhodes, Gregory Scofield, Philip Levine, Tim Lilburn and plenty of others!

The Factory Reading Series returns to VERSeFest with two talks/readings by Vermont poet Paige Ackerson-Kiely and Prince George BC poet Barry McKinnon on Sunday, March 4, lovingly hosted by rob mclennan.

This Saturday, January 21st, a VERSeFest fundraiser, Poetry for the End of the World, happens at Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue, 7:00 pm / $8 cover.

with readings and performances by Call Me Katie at 7:00 pm, followed by an open set and featured performers Brigette DePape, Kevin Matthews, Rhonda Douglas and David O'Meara, and a performance by Montreal's own Puggy Hammer (David McGimpsey, Jason Camlot and Matt Rosenberg) at 10:00 pm.

Check out www.versefest.ca for further information

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

P-QUEUE #7 (“Polemic”) + 8 (“Document”)

I was only pretending
to be ephiphanic

she said, tossing the whole
day over the embankment

Is the heart collandered
or semiprecious

filled with holes
and therefore filled with light

This is just the sort of thing
that cannot be said upon a chair

Unless that chair is spotlit
and wolverine. Can furniture

be wolverine? No, because wolverine
is a noun. (Julia Bloch)

From the depths of SUNY Buffalo come two more volumes of the annual P-QUEUE, their seventh (2010) and eighth (2011), respectively. Given the stunning work in previous volumes of P-QUEUE, I’m disappointed, although not surprised, to hear that these two are the only remaining volumes in print. How many do they make of each, I wonder? With the first three volumes edited by Sarah Campbell, volume 7 is the last of four volumes edited by Andrew Rippeon, subtitled “Polemic,” and features the work of Rich Owens, Craig Dworkin, Julia Bloch, Janet Neigh, Jimbo Blachly and Lyttle Shaw, Duriel E. Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, Ronaldo V. Wilson, Steve Zultanski, Bhanu Kapil, Robert Fitterman, Patrick F. Durgin, Alessandro Porco, Craig Santos Perez, Vanessa Place and Sarah Dowling. What I’ve always appreciated about this journal has been the construction of each issue as a whole unit, as opposed to a gathering of pieces that don’t necessarily hold as tight together, however impressive the work might be. Sylvia Legris, for example, managed such a feat throughout her run editing Grain magazine. Reminiscent, somewhat, of the recent “Manifestos Now!” issue of The Capilano Review (3.13 / Winter 2011) [see my review of such here], editor Andrew Rippeon writes to end his “Editor’s Note”:

If Angers and Tacoma teach anything to vanguard artists (and it’s a travesty to even consider that they might), it is that neither exceptional individual experience nor movement solidarity exceeds that appetite. The first white wall of the village / Rises through fruit-frees… In our clamor to be among or name the object of that first, we wager the timbre of difference for our moment of arrival. The boots of the men clump / On the boards of the bridge… Does the collapse now so thoroughly permeate the air shared by collective and individual that we fail to recognize its event as only a symptom of itself? Like poetry after Auschwitz, French bridges and American stereos are crossed and sold, and continue to be apace. What barbarism there is exists not within the single poem, pedestrian, or audio component, but rather in the appetite that finds them interchangeable in what they offer. Confronted by the equal consequence of united front and individual mind, it is incumbent upon us neither to resist as a bloc nor to assert the value of the individual, but to develop practices that perpetuate the mutual unintelligibility of these structures such that neither reduces to the other. Hence, polemic. This is old song / That will not declare itself

There are some fantastic poems in this issue, from Julia Bloch to Rich Owens to some Sarah Dowling gems, visually reminiscent of some of the work of American ex-pat poet Edward Smallfield and Toronto poet Jay MillAr. In his essay, “Polemic for P-Queue,” Steve Zultanski moves through an exploration and argument for proper criticism, as well as a scathing rebuke, and begins with the question “What is poetic about Conceptual Poetry?” He writes:

A common critique of conceptual poems is that they are totalizing gestures. This complaint is directed, most often, toward the works of Kenneth Goldsmith. Without naming names (unworthy adversaries don’t deserve names), the critique goes something like this: Goldsmith’s books are big, and they “reproduce” a masculine need to index the world, to include everything within its rational purview. Thus, it is implied (or directly suggested) that a properly feminine (or at least non-masculinist) poetics would be fragmented, poly-vocal, incomplete, etc. See: Kristeva, etc. See: sloppy readings of Derrida, etc.

What this argument fails to account for is the appearance of the incomplete, as such. For Conceptual Poetry, the incompleteness of the text (what we’ve referred to as the non-identity of concept and realization, or, the poetic element) can only appear in the apparent completeness of the project. Because the text is only apparently complete, its incompleteness is ever the more apparent in a given reading. The appearance of incompleteness in this form makes sense not only theoretically, but historically—insofar as Conceptual Poetry marks an intervention into the practice of poetry.

The most recent volume, the eighth, is the first co-edited by Holly Melgard and Joey Yearous-Algozin, subtitled “Document,” and features the work of Anna Vitale, CAConrad, Ish Klein, Thom Donovan, Chris Sylvester, Jena Osman, Lewis Freedman, Brad Flis, Andrew Topel, David Buuck, Josef Kaplan, David Wolach, Divya Victor and Lawrence Griffin, as well as bookending essays by each editor, written as a letter to the other. As Joey Yearous-Algozin opens, writing:

Dear Holly,

What has stimulated our collaborative process in this volume has been the occasion to shed fidelities to a previous design scheme, without sacrificing the appearance of formal continuity. For this journal, which we are carrying forward after Andrew Rippeon’s illustrious run as editor, to share more than just its name with the previous editions, it was necessary for us to treat its architectonics as a pre-existing structure. Since the decisions behind this exterior pattern were not our own, we were free to follow them without necessity. Instead, in choosing to engage with the arbitrary details and constraints of a preformed template, we were able to arrive at a designed ambivalence. Therefore, it is in the splendor of contradiction that this phrase enlists that I want to inaugurate this volume of P-Queue.

Sectioned into quarters, the section headers run from “A” to “AN” to “AND” and “THE,” stretching the document on the document, citing essential connector words between the sections as much as titling them. When I first became aware of P-QUEUE some years ago, part of the appeal as a reader and potential contributor both (I have work included in a long-previous issue; try to figure out which one) was their eye for works that didn’t fit anywhere else, and this issue runs a range of styles, from a sharp-eyed visual sequence by Andrew Topel, a selection of related works by CAConrad, and an excerpt of a longer poem-essay by Jena Osman, “The Beautiful Life of Persona Ficta,” that begins with a quote by Muriel Ruykeyser, “A corporation is a body without a soul.” How could she have known, so many decades back?

scientific selection of the workman
an assembly line cog:
I realize I’ve pictured the cog incorrectly—
as a spoke—
when in fact it’s just one tooth of a gear
a small part that requires interlocking with another
I spoke a small part without teeth

14th: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State small make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This Amendment, adopted to end slavery once and for all in 1868, subsequently employed to protect an artificial person in 1886. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad there is no written opinion granting corporations 14th Amendment rights; was it simply the slip of an errant court reporter?

The human body a machine that winds its own springs.

To order copies of these, or of their chapbook series (which I have yet to see), visit their website at www.p-queue.org or write P-Queue, c/o Holly Melgard, 306 Clemens Hall, English Department, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo New York, 14260 USA